2014 NFL free agency predictions: AFC
The official start of NFL free agency occurs Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET. Where will the best available players out of the AFC land at that time?
Baltimore rolled the dice by not slapping the franchise tag on its starting left tackle. As the situation at tackle began to shake out over the weekend, though, with Arizona, Miami and Oakland reportedly focusing on other available options, the likelihood of a Monroe-Ravens reunion grew. It makes sense for both parties.
Jairus Byrd: Dolphins
The top safety -- and probably the top defender -- on the market wants to cash in on his trip into free agency. So, why not head to a franchise that's shown no qualms about attempting to buy its way to a better roster? Miami ponied up for Mike Wallace last offseason, handed Brent Grimes a huge contract last week and has a need at safety with Chris Clemons departing.
The rumors fly fast and furious this time of year, so any rumblings have to be approached with caution. This one, of a move by Veldheer from Oakland to Arizona, makes too much sense to ignore.
The Buccaneers, Bears and Vikings all have been linked to Johnson in the early days of negotiations. No team needs help off the edge as much as the Falcons. With Chicago reportedly turning its attention to Michael Bennett, the Falcons should be prepared to pounce here.
Mack's level of play and his durability (80 straight starts since entering the league in 2009) ought to make him an attractive candidate in free agency. The transition tag placed on him by Cleveland, which gives the team the right to match any offer sent Mack's way, ultimately may limit the interest in him.
A popular prediction for several reasons: 1) GM Bruce Allen and assistant coach Raheem Morris drafted Talib in Tampa Bay; 2) Washington badly needs help at corner; 3) After a couple of years on the free-agency sideline, the Redskins have close to $30 million available to spend ... and no first-round pick, so they need to be aggressive.
The Jets recently cut CB Antonio Cromartie, leaving an opening at the position. They also could have another $16 million or so in spending money coming their way with the anticipated releases of Santonio Holmes and Mark Sanchez. Plucking Verner off the market to replace Cromartie would be an upgrade.
Taking a shot in the dark here. The Jaguars' desperate need for some push up front has been well-documented (hence the idea of them taking Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack over a QB at No. 3), and they find themselves with somewhere between $45-$50 million available, pending the breakdown of Red Bryant's deal. Houston can get to the quarterback on his own, plus he can move around the Jaguars' hybrid front.
Branden Albert: Dolphins
This one looks to be all but sewed up. The Dolphins are in desperation mode along the offensive line -- they still would need to focus on the guard and/or tackle spot in the draft or free agency beyond this signing. Albert's right there with Monroe and Veldheer as a top OT talent.
Eric Decker: Browns
The draft is rich with receivers and Cleveland holds two first-round picks, so ... what gives with this prediction? Well, Decker's reputation is that of a stellar No. 2 receiver (not a true No. 1). He could fill that role with the Browns alongside Josh Gordon, thereby freeing up Cleveland to focus on QB and defense early in the draft.
The Packers locked up Sam Shields and Miami kept Brent Grimes, so the Colts' top-tier options to replace Davis started dwindling before free agency even arrived. As such, they need to get their No. 1 cornerback under contract before someone else swoops in with a tempting offer.
The MMQB's Peter King reported Monday that Rodgers-Cromartie is "likely to return to Denver." If the money is there, why wouldn't he? DRC revived his career as a shutdown corner with the Broncos, and their secondary is in no position to lose out on the best defensive back they have.
Randy Starks: Patriots
There's a reason that defensive tackle is right up there with tight end as the position most associated with the Patriots in recent mock drafts. This team has to add some more talent along the interior of its D-line, especially with Vince Wilfork on his last legs. Miami's use of Starks as a rotational player last season might now aid its division rival in getting a starter at a bargain price.
Julian Edelman: Ravens
Will Edelman actually leave New England? If he does, a short trip to Baltimore could be in the cards. The Ravens find themselves in a strong cap situation (nearly $25 million available), so why not drop some to bring in another proven threat for the offense? Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta and Edelman would provide Joe Flacco three very reliable targets.
Ben Tate: Raiders Oakland has to spend some of that money, right? It has more money under the cap ($63 million-plus) than any other team and did not put any of it aside by using a franchise tag on Veldheer or Houston. Tate is leaving the Texans' potent zone-blocking scheme, meaning there might have to be some adjustment either by him or by the Raiders -- the latter ran a zone-blocking attack in 2012 and then transitioned to more of a straight-up style last season. Still, Tate looks to be the best RB on the market, and with Darren McFadden exiting, the Raiders are in need.